Thursday, June 02, 2005

Court Watch Update by Connie Champagne

Today is the second day of the murder retrial. D.A. Chris Lamiero, and all 3 lawyers for the defense have given opening statements. Tony Serra is again representing Jason Cazares, and Michael Thorman for Michael Magidson; Jose Merel has a new lawyer, William Dubois.

Lamiero methodically presented the events, culminating with a statement I felt really resonated—that these defendants “were not who they seemed” to be. Gwen Araujo thought these men were her friends, she didn’t know they were “pathetic, angry, weak…” Since the defense had attacked Gwen’s character relentlessly in the last trial, it begs the question—who was truly deceiving who?

Strategies for at least 2 of the defense attorneys will be very different from the last trial. Serra (an old-school activist lawyer, as many of you know) seems to be dismissing trans-panic, claiming his client Cazares had “no feelings for Lida (another name Gwen went by),” and that he was only involved in the cover-up out of misguided loyalty for his friends. Dubois is claiming that Merel “had feelings for Lida,” and only “menaced” her with a frying pan and can of food. He will try to convince the jury Gwen’s head injuries were caused by Jaron Nabors (the 4th perpetrator who will receive involuntary manslaughter conviction if he testifies truthfully) who allegedly hit Gwen with a weight. Although both lawyers seem to want to distance themselves from the trans-panic tactics they hoped would work last trial, they still use very sexist, transphobic inflammatory language in describing Gwen.

Thorman is back and bolder than ever with his uber-trans-panic defense, claiming his client Magidson with “zombie-like” with “rage.” “Deception and betrayal,” are words he uses frequently, and claims that Magidson “wants to take responsibility for the crime--of manslaughter, not murder.” (?) His is a classic “blame-the-victim for her own murder” defense. Thorman stated that her “reckless” behavior led to this tragedy. He asserts that his client believed that Lida/Gwen “was a gay man who enjoyed tricking straight men, possibly exposing them to HIV,” and when he “politely” tried to find out Gwen’s gender (politely--by assaulting her and pulling at her underwear?), she didn’t “apologize.” Wow. This line of rhetoric, though not a big surprise, was more offensive than ever, and I felt physically ill.

This afternoon, the prosecution’s case began. Gwen’s younger sister Pearl Serrano was the first witness to take the stand today; her testimony was heart-felt, and for the first time, the jury heard Gwen’s legal name—Gwen Amber Rose Araujo. When Lamiero showed her Gwen’s photo, she stated “That’s my sister.” She explained that Gwen had always been “feminine,” that when she was 12 or 13 began to transition, and that Gwen had been living “100%” out as female since she was 14 years old. This goes far to establish that Gwen was not deceiving anyone by identifying as female, and was, in fact, being her true self. The testimony was concise, and very moving. None of the defense lawyers had questions for her. Pearl had great support from her family---their grandmother, Aunt Imelda, Uncle David, Step-Dad John, several family friends, and of course their mom Sylvia Guerrero were all there in attendance today.

Jaron Nabors—the 4th perpetrator in the case—took the stand after Pearl at 2:10 PM. He has lost a lot of weight, and looked pretty gaunt. Lamiero began to question him about the events leading up to Gwen’s murder—how they met, who did what, and what his impressions of Lida/Gwen were. The testimony was consistent so far with the last trial.
The judge adjourned at 4PM; court reconvenes at 9 AM on Monday. The schedule generally will be Monday through Friday 9AM to 4PM, at the Hayward Courthouse, Courtroom 510, 2nd Floor Hayward, CA and is open to the public.

There is a gag order on this case which means that lawyers and witnesses can’t speak to the press. We also won’t be able to know in advance who/what order witnesses will take the stand. But Chris Daly from TG Law Center tells me it’s okay for me to write this out to you—so I am. I will try and attend court as often as possible, and try and keep this blog up to date. Thanks to Oscar, Tina, Chris Daly, Julie Dorf, Carolyn Laub, Shelly, and everyone who showed up to give support. It is powerful and appreciated.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

TO BE HONEST WITH YOU I READ THE ARTICLE ABOUT DECEPTION AND TRUTH IS SHE WAS DECEIVING IF SHE WAS NOT LETTING IT BE KNOWN. THAT IS THE PROBLEM I HAVE WITH GAYS AND TRANSSEXUALS YOU THINK IT'S OKAY TO DECIEVE SOMEONE AND THEN WHEN YOU GET HURT YOU WANT JUSTICE. WHERE WAS THE JUSTICE WHEN SHE HAD OPPORTUNITIES TO SAY I AM A MAN.

11:09 AM  
Blogger SHITHEAD said...

TO BE HONEST WITH YOU I READ THE ARTICLE ABOUT DECEPTION AND TRUTH IS SHE WAS DECEIVING IF SHE WAS NOT LETTING IT BE KNOWN. THAT IS THE PROBLEM I HAVE WITH GAYS AND TRANSSEXUALS YOU THINK IT'S OKAY TO DECIEVE SOMEONE AND THEN WHEN YOU GET HURT YOU WANT JUSTICE. WHERE WAS THE JUSTICE WHEN SHE HAD OPPORTUNITIES TO SAY I AM A MAN.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous AntonyInLA said...

Shithead has a very appropriate name. I wonder if he thinks that even if he's right, that killing someone is the thing to do about it.)

(Hi, Connie. Keep up the good work. You probably don't remember me, but we met at one of Jean F's parties in SF several years ago. Tony)

2:17 PM  
Blogger wicked_girl said...

I've been following this case since the very first headline in 2002. I just happened to find this blog site tonight, great job on the coverage!!!

Ok, I have to rant a little bit about shithead's comments. I haven't even read the rest of the posts on here, was just reading along, and happened to read this one and it really got to me.

Now I'm no expert, but I hold a degree, minor, a certificate, and am almost finished my Master's degree and my main area of interest is sex research and gender variance. I've given many presentations before and I actually know a lot of trans, intersex, gay, lesbian, bi, and even one pansexual person. I also happen to be intersex myself, so I take more than a casual interest when someone like shithead makes comments based out of illogical, uneducated thought. I don't hate people like that because they are simply unaware (how can I blame someone who speaks their mind on something, yet have it painfully obvious that they are uneducated about what they're talking about?)

Gwen didn't say that she was a man because quite simply, she was not a man. It's so hard to explain, but if you read up on some Sociology, Psychology and Gender Studies stuff, you might get the idea of how sex and gender are not strictly biological processes, but socially created terms, always being redefined to fit whatever situation we are faced with.

I know many women with penises and men with vaginas (you won't learn about them in school, but yes! Believe it or not folks, they DO exist!!). Sorry to burst anyone's bubble here.

In terms of deception, of course she wasn't deceiving anyone because she was living in a gender role that was right for her. What did you want her to do? Wear a shirt that says "I'm female, but beware...I have a penis!". As if a bunch of drunk guys are going to sit down for a biology lesson about women with non-traditional women's bodies at a party. Something tells me that wouldn't have worked in this case, and they would have murdered her either way.

When Paul Merel was saying that "I can't be f***ing gay", well, truth is he isn't! He's not attracted to men is he? No. He was attracted to Gwen, who happened to be a female. Gwen's gender was female. A lot of articles that I've seen written really seem to aggravate me over the litte homework they seem to have done on the basics of gender and sex. Did you know that gender actually refers to the qualities and roles associated with a particular sex, or alternate roles in a particular society (other societies have more than two genders) ?? Or did you know that sex is not made up of just one thing (what's between your legs), but researchers since the 1940's have said that chromosomal sex, hormonal sex, anatomical sex, gonadal sex, internal reproductive organ, gender role, assigned sex, and gender identity (give or take one or two) all make up a person's se?. You can't just pick one thing and base a definition of sex on that (i.e, penis = male). That's ludicris, but popular in North America. All of these things combined make up a person's sex. Now, it's not just a matter of adding them up and saying "hmmm....5 f's and 3 m's, well, I guess that makes me female!". Sex is a little more complicated than that. It's not a simple answer, but many journalists sure like to portray it as that.

So was Gwen deceiving anyone by not saying she was a man? Of course not, because she was living in a female gender role at the time (which makes her gender female), and her sex...who knows what her sex was? We know what her anatomical sex was, but did you measure her hormone levels? Or take into account any other elements of sex in relation to her? I think her gender identity had a heavier influence on her gender than her anatomy...don't you!? You know a lot of recent scientific research has pointed out a strong link between biology (i.e., hormones) and born male-bodied females like Gwen! Hmmmm....maybe this sex stuff isn't so easy afterall... Anatomy? that doesn't define anybody. What about intersexed people who are born without complete genitalia? Am I an "it"? Of course not. Anatomy is not destiny, and if anyone thinks that your genitals define who your are or your sex, then you are sorely mistaken. I would advise you to do your homework on sex and gender related issues, and when you're ready to have an intelligent conversation that doesn't involve saying things like "the problem I have with gays and transsexuals you think it's okay to deceive someone and then when you get hurt you want justice".

Gimme a break shithead.

6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wicked_girl,
i loved the way you typed all that. Your right.... Gwen was a female and "shithead" doesnt know what his talking about.

9:34 AM  
Blogger JACQ said...

Gwen did not deserve to die, nor did she deserve to be humiliated. Yes, she deserves justice. FOUR MEN took her life, and didn't think for one minute about her life. People need to learn acceptance for what they do not understand. I don't believe Gwen meant to hurt anyone.

I cannot imagine what it must be like for someone who is transgendered to live in a world with so much hatred. What baffles me the most is that she did not live far from the gay capital of the world, San Francisco! She had a family that loved her and I believe she had a kind heart and spirit. She just wanted to be normal, to live the way she felt she was: as a girl. It is horrible that things like this happen. She was very very beautiful; how could anyone think she was anything but a girl. I know I didn't.

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